My Postpartum Recovery in the outdoors
I wanted to share with you my story and struggles of pregnancy and postpartum as well as what helped me to recover emotionally and physically. My hope is that it can help someone to feel not alone in their own struggles, and also inspire moms to get outside more.
Becoming a mom for the first time was a beautiful and challenging experience at the same time. We planned and were really excited to have a child even if we knew that it would require a lot of adjustment. One thing I didn’t really expect is how much my body would be affected by pregnancy. Things didn’t really went the way I envisioned and expected them to be.
I was planning to have a natural birth at home with a midwife but as I started my third trimester my belly got REALLY big. I had to be monitored closely because I had a lot of amniotic fluid. This rare condition is called polyhydramnios. It was very frustrating because it was hard to stay active with a belly this big. Not to mention that I constantly got questions “Are you due soon?” or “Do you have multiples?” I ended up having a long and challenging childbirth that ended up in a C-section. Pretty much everything went not the way we planned. But when I finally held my newborn healthy daughter in my arms everything was right in the world.
I was back home with my beautiful daughter, and it was the beginning of a new life for us. The first challenge I faced was that my milk never really came in. We saw multiple lactation consultants and I tried a lot of things until I felt that I lost this battle and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. This was when I decided that my daughter is going to be formula fed. It was hard because I felt that something was wrong with me, and because I couldn't give my baby what I wanted. Another thing that was hard for me was accepting my body. After giving birth I still looked very pregnant and my belly was all saggy. I wasn't mentally and emotionally prepared for this. I always saw a lot of my friends and other women that gave birth just to snap back to their normal body. Everybody told me to be patient and that I will recover with time. I am not a very patient person because I am a doer. I like to work hard and see results. I wanted to exercise hard to get my body back but there were more challenges.
I found out that because I had such a big belly with my small frame, I got abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti) and umbilical hernia. My core was really weak, I had really bad back pains, and I was limited on the physical exercises I could do. Before I got pregnant I loved doing crunches, planks, other core exercises, and yoga. Suddenly, I couldn’t do many of those exercises until I fix my problem. I had to do a lot of special exercises for my core and the process felt really slow. I also knew that even if I get my core stronger my belly will not look the same without surgery.
So here is my story. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or to be afraid of having kids for this reason. Everybody's journey is different, and even if a lot of women don't necessarily deal with the same problems, I believe they still struggle in many other ways. Yet, I think we often feel lonely and it seems that everybody else figured it out and lives a perfect happy life. My life might seem perfect if you just look at the collections of my pictures on Instagram. Well, it’s not perfect and I have a lot of my own struggles. Sometimes I start comparing myself to others, or asking “Why me?” when I look at other women that had multiple kids and look amazing. I had my moments of weakness and I cried in despair couple times because I felt that my body was broken and I felt helpless. So if you are dealing with comparing yourself to others, or being hard on yourself, and feeling that you are not doing enough or that something is wrong with you, you are not alone.
Now to the most important part of my story. I want to share with you what really helped me to recover emotionally, physically, and to accept and love myself again. As soon as I could I started to get outside to camp and hike. Luckily it was summer and the weather was beautiful. We did our first car camping trip when my daughter was three weeks old. After that I did day hikes and my first backpacking trip with my husband and my baby when she was almost three months old. I found that my happiest place was in the nature away from my cell phone and social media, away from the mirror and scale. It was hard to get back into backpacking because I felt so weak and so out of shape. I walked slower and was often huffing and puffing to get uphill but I was slowly getting stronger. The best thing is that my body wasn't my focus anymore. It was just simply me being present in the moment. All that really matters is to keep going step after step. When I am out in the backcountry I don’t care about how I look , or what others think of me. I am not comparing myself to others. My mind becomes clear again and I get filled with gratitude for everything I already have. I feel connected and appreciative of my body that allows me to visit some of the most beautiful places. This is why I like getting outdoors in the middle of nowhere, because it's my therapy.
We did some hiking and backpacking in Montana, Canada, Utah and spent two months road tripping and adventuring in New Zealand. It helped me to feel more accepting and grateful for my body. It was a journey of learning to love myself just the way I am. I believe that if you struggle to love yourself it is also hard to give love to others. I also believe that loving and accepting myself helped me to be a better mom. There might be many other things that also help bring balance and self acceptance into life, but this is what worked best for me. So if you have similar struggles I invite you to get into the nature, away from electronic devices, social media, mirrors and scales. Be in the moment and be yourself there. It will bring healing and balance into your life.